Samoan representative Daniel Vidot has called for clearer eligibility rules in order to help the development of second-tier nations. Credit: Robb Cox. Copyright: NRL Photos
Broncos' and Samoan winger Daniel Vidot has made a passionate call for further clarity surrounding the NRL's rules regarding the eligibility tug-of-war that players face when choosing to represent their state or country.
After crossing the chalk for Samoa in last Saturday's Pacific Test against Fiji, Vidot insists that there is still great confusion surrounding the eligibility rules that were re-worked by the Australian Rugby League Commission in December 2012.
The current rules state that to qualify for State of Origin you must be eligible and elect to play for Australia and have not represented another Tier One nation (either England or New Zealand) at senior level.
The murkiness surrounding Origin eligibility has lingered throughout Origin's history with some high-profile names representing the opposite state from which they were born. Some classic examples of this include Toowoomba-born Peter Sterling and Bundaberg-born Ken Nagas playing for New South Wales, Kempsey-born Greg Inglis playing for Queensland and New Zealand-born James Tamou and Tonie Carroll playing for NSW and Queensland respectively.
Brisbane-born Vidot, who has now played six games for Samoa, feels that the eligibility rules must be clarified for Tier Two countries such as Samoa, Fiji, Tonga and Papua New Guinea in order to ensure the best players are available for those countries.
"I don't think it's clear enough. Rugby league and especially the NRL need to have a look at it. There needs to be some more clarity around the rules of eligibility," Vidot said.
"If they want to grow rugby league around the world they're going to have to make some changes. At the moment it's a bit tight and hectic – there are not enough rules that let players play for their country.
"People are being forced to sit on the sideline and [as a result] we're putting understrength squads in. It's definitely something that needs to be looked at."
Vidot's comments come on the back of Raiders fullback Anthony Milford opting to play for the Queensland under-20s Origin team over Samoa – the country his parents are from – despite the Broncos-bound utility representing the Samoans at the 2013 World Cup.
"That's something 'Milly' decided to do and we've got nothing against that," he said.
"When we're sitting in camp and we look around and [realise] we're missing [various players] it takes a big hole out of the team. There is never the one team – there's always someone new coming in.
"It's tough enough [without those players]. We're forced to pick boys from the NSW or Queensland Cup. Regardless of that they still wear their heart on their sleeve and as we saw on the weekend."
Vidot's solution is a simple one, with the 24-year-old suggesting players should be able to play for their state and also one of the second-tier nations.
"Even if you've played for Queensland and don't make the Australian squad you should be able to represent a second-tier country," he said.
"It would help the [NRL] and the World Cup and there wouldn't be a big difference in the score-lines as it is now.
"There should be a second-tier [competition] for the less dominant countries."
When quizzed over his personal eligibility, Vidot remained undecided but did agree that the financial incentives to play Origin far outweigh monetary compensation on offer when representing Samoa at international level.
Currently Origin players are paid $20,000 per game however there are calls for this to rise to $50,000 per game when the NRL enters into a new TV deal once the current one expires in 2017. It is believed that the Samoan players only received around $1,000 each for their participation in the Pacific Test.
"If you're looking at it that way – you're getting $60,000 put in front of your face [to play Origin] or $1,000 to play for Samoa – you're going to pick Origin," he said.
If players from the Tier Two nations hadn’t already had their loyalty divided between country and state, another curve ball is being thrown at them in the form of allowed eligibility changes every World Cup cycle.
Currently, players from the second-tier nations are allowed to switch their allegiance during the four-year period between World Cups, a dilemma faced by Vidot when he was called up to the Queensland Emerging Origin squad in 2011.
"A couple of years back I had to sit out [of a Samoan Test match] because I got a call from Mal [Meninga]," he said.
"[Because] I sat out for Samoa I felt like I owed my country a game [this time around]. I was proud to represent my country."
Saturday's 32-16 win over Fiji in Penrith ensured that Samoa will take part in the end-of-year Four Nations tournament alongside Australia, New Zealand and England. Samoa's qualification has the softly-spoken Vidot extremely delighted for the country of his heritage.
"It's something that Rugby League Samoa is very proud about. It's the first time any footy side in Samoa has been fourth in the world so it's a big thing for us and hopefully it's going to make us role models for the kids who look up to us," he said.
"It's definitely a big step for us."